Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bi-polar farmwife meets Rick Bayless

I was born in Rock Island Illinois and my first home was a shack of a farmhouse my parents were renting. My fathers first attempt at farming. It lasted 12 months. We returned to Chicago , home of my best childhood memories. Fast foward and I am now 17 yrs married to a dairy farmer turned dairy-hog-peacock-goat-chicken -bee farmer. I tell you this to explain why I love both the city and the country. Bi-polar in the best sense.

Recently we had the opportunity to spend the whole day in Chicago as we attended the Frontera Farmers Foundation Benefit. As recent recipients of one of their grants, the foundation asked us to participate in their day long Farmers Market and grand fund raising dinner. We donated pork shoulder which was made into the most tasty BBQ I have ever tasted. Executuve Chef Richard James developed the recipe ( "I know Baaaar-B-Que !" ) and chef Bill Otis AKA "Grill Bill" was assigned to dish up the BBQ sandwiches.

For 3 hours we stood side by side with Grill Bill  (wearing the cap) while he not only served up our meat but then told the hundreds of Famer Market attendees all about our pork. Keith had spend about 10 seconds telling Bill about our product BUT Bill listened with both ears and by the end of the event he could inform the long long line of people how the Red Wattle was rediscovered in Texas, how it was being raised by us, the exact amount of milk it gets every day and why the meat was superior in taste. Some folks came back to our station 4 and 5 times.

Richard James, Frontera Chef who turned our pork into little pieces of heaven.
(And taught me how not to shake hands like a nerd)

We also got to meet the 14 other famers picked by the Frontera Foundation, (Hello Samantha , Greg and Renee !) sample their wares, learn about their farms and their ways. So valuable. In the midst of the activity I noticed a woman going very quietly from table to table making sure all the details were being tended too. Such as removing each dead blossom from the gorgeous floral arrangements on the wall and replacing them with fresh blooms. Turns out it was Deann Bayless herself. Gotta love those detail oriented people. Events like this one would never happen without them .

Myself, Deann Bayless of Frontera Restaurant and Samantha Sexton of Natures Choice Farm

Towards the end, as the crowd started to thin, Rick Bayless, award winning Chef-Restauranteur, cookbook author and TV celebrity came to our booth to sample our pork. He pronounced it "Fabulous". Keith stood still and just beemed. I collapsed on the beautiful Terra Cotta floor in fit of giggles and peed myself. (not to worry, Attends were in place).

Later, after the Farmers Market debri was cleared, all of Ricks staff who VOLUNTEER all their time for this fund raiser, set up the restaurants for a very formal dinner and silect auction. Other staff took "the farmers" outside for a special meal of bacon and bean cassolet (satisfying, so satisfying) and even more special, time together as farmers and chefs to talk about food in general, the loss of family farms in particular.

       Keith (on right) discussing pasture raised pork with Frontera Farmers Benefit attendees

But, it still wasn't over. After watching a couple hundred MORE people arrive at Frontera for the final sit down dinner, we were led back into the dining room. Rick Bayless stood in front of us farmers, spoke of his love for fresh, honest, non-mass produced food and then introduced EACH of us by name and farm, thanking US for what we had done to promote the family farm. It was very humbling

Thank you again to Rick Bayless, all his staff, chefs Bill Otis and Richard James for their part in making our pork shine. To Deb Silverstein for her many communcations back and forth with me and  to the Frontera Farmers Foundation for believing in our farm and granting us the funds we needed to save the Critically Endangered Red Wattle Hog

And very special thanks to Marty and Kris Travis of Spence Farms
 who introduced us to this special movement of producing chemical free, local food for those talented chefs and restaurant owners who really care about what they serve and how it is grown. The line between city and country blurs more and more each day.


  1. How exciting for you!!!! Good food, good company and a shout out from Rick Bayless. I am glad there are opportunities like this out there for farms like yours.

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